Pablo Rodriguez: Google Pointing Out C-11 Flaws Makes Them the Real Bullies

Heritage Minister, Pablo Rodriguez, caught controversy for saying that Google pointing out Bill C-11 flaws makes them the real bullies.

Late last month, there was a major scandal that rocked the Bill C-11 Senate hearings. In it, Heritage Minister’s Parliamentary secretary, Chris Bittle, along with another Liberal MP accomplice, leaked a complaint to the Globe and Mail mere hours before Digital First Canada was set to testify before Senators. As we noted both in our article and our vlog, the complaint was filed months ago, but seemingly went nowhere. This was confirmed when Digital First Canada managing director, Scott Benzie, asked the Lobbying Commission if there was an investigation or if there was any sign of impropriety and the Commission responding that him and his organization is clear of any wrongdoing and is compliant with the law.

The scandal spilled over into the hearings where multiple Senators expressed disgust over the actions taken by the Liberal government. Reports also suggested that there was a point of privilege raised for the Speaker of the House to investigate as well as questions raised in the Senate. The Speaker of the House refused to investigate, but we haven’t heard anything from the Senate level requests about witness intimidation and bullying.

Meanwhile, Google Canada published a post pointing out flaws in the legislation. Here’s part of what they said:

YouTube is a personalized experience for everyone, built on the principle of helping you find the videos you want to watch and will be valuable to you. And we use many signals to do this, including clicks, watchtime, shares, likes, and more. This helps us introduce viewers to new content and creators they may not have thought to look for.

In its current form, Bill C-11 would require YouTube to manipulate these systems, and surface content according to the CRTC’s priorities, rather than the interests of Canadian users. Put into practice, this means that when viewers come to the YouTube homepage, they’re served content that a Canadian Government regulator has prioritized, rather than content they are interested in.

When users are recommended content that is not personally relevant, they react by tuning out – skipping the video, abandoning the video, or even giving it a ‘thumbs down’. When our Search and Discovery systems receive these signals, they learn that this content is not relevant or engaging for viewers, and then apply this on a global scale. This means that globally, Canadian creators will have a harder time breaking through and connecting with the niche audiences who would actually love their content. That directly hits the bottom line of Canadian creators, making it harder for them to build a sustainable business.

In the spring we saw tens of thousands of Canadian creators raise their voices to share their concerns, but their concerns were not addressed. What’s more, millions of Canadians aren’t even aware of the bill, or that their online experience could potentially change.

Respecting the individuality of every user who comes to our platform and meeting their unique needs is a key part of what makes YouTube so special. Does it make sense for a regulator to curate your experience on YouTube to reflect the government’s priorities? We believe that the diversity of content, creators, and users is our strength and we want to preserve the rich experience that Canadians enjoy today.

So, really just an overview of the flaws of the legislation and how it would impact the user experience. Nothing too far out of the ordinary. However, Heritage Minister, Pablo Rodriguez, saw otherwise. Rodriguez has been largely absent from the debates. He’s relegated much of the pressure to other MPs and has stayed in the shadows for much of the debate. The few appearances he did make really never advanced his causes and, instead, only served to fuel opposition towards things like Bill C-11. His latest, albeit rare, salvo really continued that trend of being counter-productive to his cause. In comments he made to media, he said that Google is intimidating Canadians, making them the real bully in these debates. From CTV:

OTTAWA – Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez said he doesn’t appreciate Google “trying to intimidate Canadians,” after the company pushed back on the government’s proposed online streaming bill.

Google published a blog post on Wednesday advocating against Bill C-11, saying it has the potential to “disadvantage the Canadian creators.”

When asked about that criticism, Rodriguez said the proposed law simply asks streaming companies — including YouTube, which is owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet — to contribute to Canadian culture.

(Via @mgeist)

So, a real mix of both ridiculous accusations and misinformation about the legislation. The blog post was accurate and the legislation does more than just asking platforms “to contribute to Canadian culture”. So, yet another Rodriguez appearance going badly. Naturally, CTV, being a major supporter of the legislation, tried to jazz up their headline by saying “Heritage minister, Google clash over online streaming bill”, but ultimately, the conflict was solely sparked by the Heritage Minister.

Really, the minister could have responded to the hearings by saying that he is open to fixing the legislation – namely through Section 4.1, 4.2, and 4.2 (2), but the continued misinformation campaign really sent a strong signal again that he has slammed the door tight on fixing the legislation, consequently giving the middle finger to Canadians, creators, and online innovation in the process.

Ultimately, he knows the debate has gone extremely badly for his side of the legislation. The establishment media has thrown a lot of money at this and are clearly not getting the results they are hoping for. So, chances are, he was pressured to do something about this and it only resulted in yet another misstep on his part. Probably a strong indication why he has been so absent in all of these debates. As this latest development shows, he probably is only going to make matters worse.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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